Macs–WTF31 May 2013
In class the other day the tutor was making sure that everybody was familiar with our readings and assessment. “It’s all on the LMS,” she said, by way of summary. “Has everybody managed to log on and have a look?” It was really a rhetorical question because it was assumed that everybody had. Some people even had laptops open on their desks. But one man in his late forties raised his hand. “No, I haven’t. This is my first class in twenty years and I have no idea what the LMS is, or how to even find it.” I smiled smugly to myself. Fancy being alive in this day and age and not knowing how to do something as basic as using a computer?
The irony was lost on me when two hours I found myself in a computer lab at the business end of a Mac with a very shaky grasp of how to turn it on. As a lifelong PC user, Macs are something I generally avoid in my daily life as fervently as I avoid hugging rotting white carcasses. I have trouble doing the most basic things on a Mac, like keeping track of all the applications I’ve opened, usually by accident. I never know if I’ve actually closed something or just minimised it, and I only find out when the computer crashes due to the extraordinary amount of processing power needed for the 60 odd programs I have running. I’ve seen proficient Macbook users get an overview of their open applications by doing an impressive looking swishy thing on the track pad with four fingers. When I try to do this though, I seem to end up in an alternate universe and I’m terrified that the next thing I press will reformat the hard drive.
It’s really the little things that are the most distressing, like the fact that I’m not sure what the Mac equivalent of Ctrl-Alt-Del is. In PC land, Ctrl-Alt-Del is my get out of jail free card when things go pear shaped–it’s the computer equivalent of clicking my heels together and saying ‘there’s no place like home’. On a Mac, I’m robbed of this luxury.
When I instinctively go to press the keys where Ctrl-Alt-Del should be I end up compounding all the problems I’m having into one giant super-problem. I know that the Mac equivalent of Ctrl-Alt-Del exists, but the only time I ever think to look it up is when the Mac is already frozen and I can’t open Google.
I think the real reason I find Macs infuriating is because generally I know what I want to do–I just have no idea how to do it. Like Aesop’s fable about the fox and the grapes, there is a disconnect between my visualised outcome and the actual outcome. When you can’t achieve something the way you thought you could, anxiety and frustration ensue, often followed by the erroneous rationalisation that what you wanted to do wasn’t worth it anyway. Consequently, I’m stuck in an endless cycle of not understanding Macs, therefore thinking they’re stupid and therefore avoiding them. Consequently, I’ve never learned how to use them properly. This eventually leads me to sobbing softly at the back of my lab class desperately pressing the ‘return’ key, which, despite its promising name, never manages to return me to a place where I understand what’s happening.